Nearly four years after attorney Melissa Britt Lewis' murder, questions still swirl about the crime. Tony Villegas, the man charged with strangling her and dumping her body in a canal, has not yet faced trial. He was ruled mentally incompetent last year but has since been deemed fit for court. Tony's ex-wife and Lewis' best friend at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm, Debra Villegas, is in prison for aiding in Rothstein's Ponzi scheme.
Many people still wonder if Rothstein was involved in Lewis' death. Did she discover his scheme? Did he want to get rid of her?
Miami defense attorney Sam Rabin fished for answers during Rothstein's December 16 deposition. Rabin -- who represents a TD Bank vice president under criminal investigation
for his dealings with Rothstein -- began with questions about the house Rothstein gave Debra Villegas after Lewis died.
Rabin: And there was a gentleman who lived in a house that you basically threw him out of the house to put Debra Villegas in it. What was his name? When Melissa Lewis was murdered, you recall that time, right?
Rothstein: Melissa Lewis was murdered. And I went and purchased a home out in Weston for Debra.
Rabin: But you had a gentleman living in another house that you were going to put her in, and wrote him an email, and you referred to him as your brother. What was his name? Do you know what I'm talking about?
Rothstein: Just refresh my recollection. I just don't remember off the top of my head. At that moment, I would have done anything to get Debra out of her house because at that moment, we didn't know who the killer was.
Rabin: Were you threatened in connection with that at all?
Rothstein: In connection with the Melissa Lewis case?
Rabin: Around the time that Melissa Lewis was murdered, were you threatened by anyone?
Rabin: You told people that you were threatened, though, right?
Rothstein: No. You're talking about two completely different things.
Rabin: Tell me how I'm confused.
Rothstein: You're talking about people threatening me, feeling threatened by other individuals and the fact that Melissa Lewis' killer had not been found. You're mixing it up, and you're also mixing in Mob things that I was involved in.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Later in the depo, Rabin tried a different tack. He mentioned that Lewis had worked with Rothstein on a case that involved "illegal things."
Rabin: She was involved in one of the cases that you were doing illegal things in, wasn't she?
Rothstein: In Silversea you're talking about?
Rothstein: Yeah, but she didn't know that.
Rabin: How do you know she didn't know that?
Rothstein: I didn't tell her.
Rabin: I mean, in truth you've been asked over the course of four or five days what people knew and didn't know. The truth is, unless you specifically had a conversation, you can't testify to what somebody knew or didn't know?
Rothstein:I thought I made that clear today when I said it's just my opinion. I think that's what opinion means.
Bear in mind, Debra Villegas was Rothstein's right-hand woman at the firm. Lewis was her best friend and an accomplished attorney. It seems entirely possible that Lewis could discover things Rothstein didn't explicitly tell her -- things he did not want her to know.
Questions about Rothstein and Lewis will likely be discussed again in court. Tony Villegas' trial is slated to begin January 9.